Pacman Frog

Ceratophrys ornata

Order: Anura

Family:  Ceratophryidae

Other names: Argentine wide-mouthed frog, ornate pacman frog


Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

  • Ornate horned frogs are native to northern Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. They live in tropical and montane rainforests.


  • Normally, ornate horned frogs will live about 6 years, but some individuals have lived up to 12 years in captivity.

Ecosystem Role


Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Life Cycle Natural History Relevant Information

    •  In the wild, ornate horned frogs will mate all year round. In captivity, this species only mates with supplementary hormones. Up to 500 eggs are laid per clutch, but they are spread out into several different clumps.
  • Temperature, Humidity, Light Cycles

    • They are usually diurnal, but may sometimes shift to a crepuscular schedule. Ornate frogs are pretty aggressive – they are one of the few frogs that will lunge and bite as a defense. Tadpoles are as carnivorous as adults, and even have beaks that are used to penetrate the sides of other tadpoles.
  • Substrate:

    • Housed on moist coco fiber substrate deep enough to allow for burrowing. This species likes to nestle down into the soil. Tank size should be a minimum of 10 gallons.
  • Social Housing/Colony Management

    • As a toothed, carnivorous species, these frogs should be housed independently- they will eat anything that moves.
  • Other General Housing Requirements or Management information


Diet Requirements

  • Diet in the Wild

    • In the wild, ornate horned frogs eat insects, small birds, lizards, mammals, and other frogs – basically, anything that can fit inside its mouth is fair game.
  •  Diet under human care

    • In captivity, they are fed pinky mice.
    • Brandywine Zoo feeds: 5-6 gut-loaded crickets, 3x/week

Veterinary Concerns

  • Horned Frogs shed their skin at regular intervals as they grow. The old skin is pushed off with the hind legs and the skin peels off from the back end. The skin should come off in one piece and is normally eaten by the frog. The skin is pushed forwards using its legs towards the mouth.
  • Due to their permeable skin, do not use disinfectants or cleaners that may be toxic or are known to be toxic to other animals. 

Enrichment & Training 


  • Behavioral Relevant Information

  • Environmental Enrichment

    • This species loves to burrow into the soil, as they’re typically ambush predators. Providing ample substrate for them to burrow in is ideal.
  • Behavioral Enrichment

  • Schedule

  • Other Enrichment Resources


  • Behaviors Trained

  • Reinforcers used & schedule of reinforcement


Programmatic Information


Messaging Themes 

  • Threats and Conservation Status

    • The major threats to ornate horned frogs is habitat loss and pollution. They are listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened, and the population trend is decreasing.
  • Interesting Natural History Information

    • Fat in appearance, ornate horned frogs have small and rather inconspicuous horns above the eyes, and a very wide mouth. Coloration is bright green with reddish-brown oval spots paired over much of the back, and a yellowish underbelly. Ornate horned frogs look very much like toads, with their short legs and bumpy skin, but they are still frogs because they have teeth.
    • They can grow to be 4-6 inches in diameter.
    • Difficult to ID prior to mature size. Females tend to be larger than males, and males possess dark pigmented throats and nuptial pads on the forelimbs.
  • Did you know…

    • Horned Frogs are sometimes called the Pac Man frog in reference to the computer game character. This is because the Horned Frog sometimes appears to be all mouth and has a very large appetite like the Pac Man character who tries to eat every ‘pac-dot’ on the board.
    • Ornate horned frogs can’t swim well, and may drown in just an inch of water.
    • When a frog swallows, the eyes close and sink into the roof of the mouth. This action propels food into the gullet.

Handling & Presentation Tips


Use Guidelines

  • Keep a mister bottle present that is filled with RO or aged water in case rewetting is necessary.
  • Amphibians must be handled with care and not too frequently. Always use gloves when handling, either vinyl or neoprene gloves (never latex).
  • Philadelphia Zoo staff have found that some frogs get very stressed with handling and will present most frogs in a display tank rather than taking them in hand for program use. Handling also increases the chances that an animal will injury itself fleeing.

Pubic Contact and Interaction Guidelines

  • These frogs are easily presented in a clear acrylic carrier lined with coco fiber substrate. They do not have a tendency to hop or jump if the lid is opened for a short period of time to look in. They will nestle into the substrate.
  • Brandywine Zoo packs these frogs with fake plants to provide the opportunity to hide, too.

Transportation Tips



Crating Techniques



Temperature Guidelines



Acquisition Information






Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • The Brandywine Zoo

Comments from the Rating System

  • John Ball Zoo: Non-touchable; stays in a clear container
  • Henry Vilas Zoo: Pretty; flight risk, so presented only in a container; use to teach about ambush predators, amphibian attributes, and the global amphibian crisis
  • Brandywine Zoo: presented in carrier. They are much more calm in this style presentation compared to something active like a cane toad, which tend to hop into the sides of the enclosure.